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DEWEY Each volume of this series of companions to major philosophers contains specially commissioned essays by an international team of scholars,

together with a substantial bibliography,

and will serve as a reference work for students and non-specialists

One aim of the series is to dispel the intimidation such readers often feel when faced with the work of a difficult and challenging thinker

John Dewey (1859–1952) was a major figure of the American cultural and intellectual landscape in the first half of the twentieth century

While not the originator of American pragmatism,

he was instrumental to its articulation as a philosophy and the spread of its influence beyond philosophy to other disciplines

His prolific writings encompass metaphysics

and democratic political and international theory

The contributors to this Companion examine the wide range of Dewey’s thought and provide a critical evaluation of his philosophy and its lasting influence

New readers will find this the most convenient,

accessible guide to Dewey currently available

Advanced students and specialists will find a conspectus of recent developments in the interpretation of Dewey

molly cochran is Associate Professor of International Affairs in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology

She is the author of Normative Theory in International Relations: A Pragmatic Approach (1999)

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The Cambridge Companion to

DEWEY Edited by Molly Cochran Georgia Institute of Technology



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– (Cambridge companions to philosophy) Includes bibliographical references

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List of contributors Method of citation Chronology of the life and work of John Dewey Introduction molly cochran 1

2 3 4 5

The making of a democratic philosopher: the intellectual development of John Dewey robert westbrook

Dewey’s epistemology ruth anna putnam

The naturalism of John Dewey richard m

Dewey’s logic of inquiry isaac levi

The primacy of practice in Dewey’s experimental empiricism j

Cognitive science and Dewey’s theory of mind,

John Dewey and action matthias jung


10 11 12

Dewey’s moral philosophy jennifer welchman

Ethics as moral inquiry: Dewey and the moral psychology of social reform james bohman

Dewey and pragmatic religious naturalism sami pihlstro¨ m

Dewey’s aesthetics richard eldridge

Dewey’s philosophy of education: a critique from the perspective of care theory nel noddings

Dewey’s vision of radical democracy richard j

Dewey as an international thinker molly cochran

Bibliography Index

337 349

bernstein is Vera List Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research

He is the author of eight books,

including: Radical Evil: A Philosophic Interrogation

The New Constellation: The Ethical/Political Horizons of Modernity/ Postmodernity

Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science,


james bohman is Danforth Chair of Humanities and Professor of Philosophy and Professor of International Studies at Saint Louis University

His books include Democracy across Borders: from Dêmos to Dêmoi

Public Deliberation: Pluralism,

Complexity and Democracy

and New Philosophy of Social Science: Problems of Indeterminacy

molly cochran is Associate Professor of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology

She is the author of Normative Theory in International Relations: a Pragmatic Approach

richard eldridge is Charles and Harriett Cox McDowell Professor of Philosophy at Swarthmore College

He is the author of: Literature,

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art

The Persistence of Romanticism: Essays in Philosophy and Literature

Leading a Human Life: Wittgenstein,


and On Moral Personhood: Philosophy,



gale is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh and is the author of The Language of Time

On the Nature and Existence of God

The Divided Self of xi

List of contributors

William James

and John Dewey’s Quest for Unity: the Journey of a Promethean Mystic

mark johnson is Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Philosophy Department at the University of Oregon

He is author of The Meaning of the Body: The Bodily Basis of Meaning,


Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics

and The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding

matthias jung is Professor of Philosophy at the Max-Weber-Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies in Erfurt,


His areas of specialization include philosophy of religion,

American pragmatism and philosophical anthropology

He has written books on Heidegger,


the concept of religious experience,

the anthropology of articulation

isaac levi is the John Dewey Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Columbia University and is the author of eight books,

including: Gambling with Truth: an Essay on Induction and the Aims of Science

Hard Choices: Decision Making under Unresolved Conflict

and The Covenant of Reason: Rationality and the Commitments of Thought

Jacks Professor of Education Emerita at Stanford University

She is the author of over 150 journal articles and book chapters and among her many books are: Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education

Philosophy of Education

Happiness and Education

and Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach

sami pihlstro¨ m is Professor of Practical Philosophy,

University of Jyväskylä,

Finland and Director of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies

His books include: Naturalizing the Transcendental: A Pragmatic View

Pragmatist Metaphysics: An Essay on the Ethical Grounds of Ontology

and Pragmatist Moral Realism: A Transcendental Defense

ruth anna putnam is Professor of Philosophy Emerita at Wellesley College

She is the editor of the Cambridge Companion to William James and the author of articles on William James and John Dewey,

and in ethics and political philosophy

List of contributors

tiles is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawai’i at Mânoa and the author of Dewey and editor of John Dewey: Critical Assessments

jennifer welchman is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alberta

She is the author of Dewey’s Ethical Thought

robert westbrook is Professor of History at the University of Rochester

His books include John Dewey and American Democracy and Democratic Hope: Pragmatism and the Politics of Truth

The complete works of John Dewey and the correspondence of John Dewey have been published in print editions by Southern Illinois University Press,

and electronic editions by the InteLex Corporation in its Past Masters series

John Dewey,

The Collected Works,

The Middle Works,

Each reference to Dewey’s published writing in this Companion will indicate the year

whether it is noted from his Early Works (EW),

Middle Works (MW),

and the volume number within that grouping of his Works,

followed by the relevant page number(s) in the volume: for example,

MW 10:242

The Correspondence of John Dewey,

All references to Dewey’s correspondence in this Companion use this resource,

making note of the author and recipient

the number assigned to the letter

and the volume number: for example,

John Dewey to Samuel O

Levinson 1923

The Correspondence of John Dewey,

chronology of the life and work of john dewey

Dewey is born in Burlington,

Vermont on October 20 Dewey is granted an A

degree from the University of Vermont Teaches high school and serves as Assistant Principal in Oil City,

Pennsylvania Teaches at Lake View Seminary in Charlotte,

Vermont Dewey attends graduate school at Johns Hopkins University,

Baltimore Dewey is granted his Ph

from Johns Hopkins University Instructor at the University of Michigan,

Department of Philosophy Assistant Professor of Philosophy,

University of Michigan Dewey marries Alice Chipman Psychology is published Son Frederick Archibald is born “The Ethics of Democracy” is published in the University of Michigan’s Philosophical Papers series Leibniz’s New Essays Concerning the Human Understanding is published Professor and Chair of Mental and Moral Philosophy and Logic,

University of Minnesota Daughter Evelyn Riggs is born

Chronology of the life and work of John Dewey

Department of Philosophy,

University of Michigan Son Morris is born Professor and Chair,

Department of Philosophy,

University of Chicago Founds Laboratory Schools at the University of Chicago While traveling in Europe,

son Morris dies in Milan of diphtheria Director,

Laboratory School,

University of Chicago Daughter Evelyn contracts diphtheria Son Gordon Chipman is born “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology” is published in Psychological Review Elected to the Board of Trustees,

Hull-House Association National Education Association Council Member Daughter Lucy Alice is born The School and Society is published President of the American Psychological Association President,

University Senate,

University of Chicago Daughter Jane Mary is born Editor,

Elementary School Review Appointed Director of School of Education and Head of Philosophy Department,

University of Chicago Professor of Philosophy with a Lectureship in Psychology,

Columbia University While traveling in Europe,

son Gordon dies in Ireland Adopts Sabino Dewey,

in Italy President of the American Philosophical Society Dewey and J

Tufts’s Ethics is published “What Pragmatism Means by Practical” and “Does Reality Possess Practical Character

?” are published How We Think and The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy are published Elected to National Academy of Sciences General Committee member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Chronology of the life and work of John Dewey 1913–14 1914 1916 1916

President of the National Kindergarten Association Appointed Chairman of a committee to organize the American Association of University Professors Democracy and Education and Essays in Experimental Logic are published “Understanding the Mind of Germany” is published in Atlantic Monthly and “Force and Coercion” is published in the International Journal of Ethics Accepts Editorship of Dial Lectures in Japan Lectures in China Reconstruction in Philosophy is published Human Nature and Conduct is published Conducts educational survey of Turkey Experience and Nature is published Member of Board of Trustees of the China Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture Conducts educational survey of Mexico The Public and its Problems is published Alice Chipman Dewey dies Conducts educational survey of the Soviet Union Member of National Advisory Committee of the Sacco-Vanzetti National League Meets to form League for Independent Political Action (LIPA) and elected to provisional Executive Committee The Quest for Certainty is published President,

People’s Lobby Elected Chairman of National Committee of LIPA Dewey resigns,

appointed Professor Emeritus from Columbia University “From Absolutism to Experimentalism” is published Individualism,

Old and New is published Vice-President,

League for Industrial Democracy Dewey publishes an open letter in The New York Times to US Senator George Norris asking him to leave the Republican Party and join LIPA in forming a third party Chairman,

People’s Lobby Joint Committee on Unemployment

xviii 1931 1931 1931 1932 1933–5 1934 1934 1935 1937

Chronology of the life and work of John Dewey Vice-President,

All America Reciprocity Union Member,

American Civil Liberties Union National Committee on Labor Injunctions Chairman,

Joint Committee on Unemployment Dewey and J

Tufts’s revised Ethics is published Vice-president,

American Association of Cultural Relations with Russia A Common Faith and Art as Experience are published Travels in Southern Africa Liberalism and Social Action is published Serves as Chair of the Commission of Inquiry into the Charges made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials,

Mexico Logic: The Theory of Inquiry and Experience and Education are published Freedom and Culture and Theory of Valuation are published President,

League for Industrial Democracy Sponsors Committee for a Boycott against Japanese Aggression and National Boycott against Aggressor Nations Member,

National Committees of both the International Rescue and Relief Committee and the Civil Rights Defense Committee Charter member of the American Society for Aesthetics Dewey marries Roberta Lowitz Grant Knowing and the Known is published Vice-president,

Ethical Union Advisory Committee Member,

Committee of Racial Equality Dewey dies in New York City on June 1


At the twenty-third Annual Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1932,

John Dewey addressed his audience on the topic of the Great Depression

He highlighted the opportunity for more expansive democratic change that the economic crisis represented: The paradise of folly in which we have been living has broken down

That at least is some gain

It is something to become aware of the need for new ideas,

to bring about a great social reconstruction

More specifically,

I think our depression has compelled us to think more fundamentally on social matters,

than we have been thinking for many years

As I write the introduction to this volume,

the United States President Barack Obama has just reached his one-hundredth day in office

President Obama sees in this moment of global economic crisis,

an opportunity to push something akin to a “reset” button

In his Inaugural Address,

Obama stated that the country must “begin again the work of remaking America

” The approach he offers resonates with that of Dewey

It rejects absolutisms,

or “worn out dogmas” as Obama put it,

making tough choices not on the basis of fixed ideological preferences,

but on the basis of “whether it works,” and works in a way consistent with America’s founding principles – or,

America’s democratic culture

Part of that democratic culture for Dewey was a faith in what Americans can create when they put individual intelligence to work on common problems

Dewey called for a “speculative audacity,” a faith in ideas liberated from “timidity

”2 Obama’s politics is based on a similar idea 1

as he said at his inauguration,

to a notion that America’s achievements have been founded not upon the “sum of our individual ambitions,” but upon what individuals who realize their connections with others have done and will do in the future

He concluded his Inaugural Address with a call for “a new era of responsibility – a recognition,

on the part of every American,

that we have duties to ourselves,

”3 Over the last twenty years there has been a resurgence of interest in the work of John Dewey across a number of disciplines,

reflecting the wide range of his intellectual pursuits in areas such as philosophy,


I draw upon the example of the new Obama administration to begin this introduction because Dewey himself would have been less interested in seeing his work invoked in the latest scholarly debates than in seeing intelligence and experimentalism applied to actually existing human problems of today

He would want to see evidence that,

individuals were developing the best in themselves,

adapting successfully to and finding meaning in changed social and environmental conditions through cooperative problem-solving

The honing of human intelligence with a view to finding improved means of human coping was a lifelong aim of Dewey’s and is reflected across the breadth of his writing

As Steven Rockefeller writes,

“no moral value stands above critical evaluation and reconstruction,

especially in times of social transition

The vital moral issue is to use experimental intelligence and a knowledge of conditions and consequences to guide this process wisely

”4 Dewey was a major figure of the American intellectual and cultural landscape during the first half of the twentieth century and he published academic writing as well as political journalism over almost seventy years,

his collected works spanning thirty-seven volumes

He lived to the age of ninety-two,

having been born the year in which Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species (1859),

and he died in 1952 when America detonated the first hydrogen bomb

He was a child of the American Civil War,

and lived to see the emergence of the Cold War and the start of the Korean War

Dewey was both a philosopher and a public intellectual who devoted his mental energies to thinking about the social and cultural changes that were impacting his world

He argued that


Dewey was compelled to write about deep-running tensions such as those generated by scientific advances and the values of the day (evolutionary science and religious belief as well as the impact of the atomic age)

and the advantages of capitalism and industrialism being associated with many dislocations and inequities (one could say that both Dewey and Karl Marx critiqued capitalism from a humanist vantage point)

Dewey was not the originator of the American tradition of philosophy known as pragmatism

Its founder was Charles Sanders Peirce,

and he had a notable influence upon Dewey


Dewey played an important role in popularizing pragmatism and making it a public philosophy

In particular,

his instrumentalism served to put flesh on the bones of what Peirce and William James,

another important figure in the founding of this tradition,

provided as its basic insight – that inquiry into the practical effects of our thought and action is the most important thing we humans do

Dewey furnished pragmatism with an ethical theory that neither Peirce nor James provided,

even though James’s philosophy had a decidedly moral concern

the influence of pragmatism had waned by the 1950s and Dewey’s once iconic status was forgotten

Both were overtaken by developments in analytical philosophy and the widening appeal of the formal methods of logical positivism in contrast to the seeming imprecision of pragmatism,

with its focus upon the roles of change and contingency in human experience,

and upon our reflections about how to adapt in relation to that experience

the will to know a “real” world,

the aim of analytical philosophy and of the less formal method of ordinary language analysis too,

Dewey’s own sustained attack against traditional philosophy and its end goal – an ahistorical,

universal knowledge of absolutes – has been revitalized by writers such as Richard Bernstein,

Richard Rorty,

They draw attention to Dewey’s non-foundational approach to philosophy formulated before either Ludwig Wittgenstein or Martin Heidegger,

with influencing his own approach to philosophy as cultural critique

His intention was to give philosophy a direct,

organic relationship to lived experience and

provide a method by which individuals could exist better in the world

Dewey was influenced by the evolutionary theory of Darwin and believed that humans are adaptive beings who shape and are shaped by their natural and social environments

Inquiry into any kind of problem,

whether it is a problem of the natural or the social world,

is best modeled upon scientific method

The only significant dissimilarity between the two types of problem is one of starting point,

and it is a difference of complexity in particular

Inquiry in natural science begins with natural phenomena

Social scientific inquiry begins with moral questions about human problems,

asking what “ought” to be done

The latter is more complex than inquiry in natural science since it cannot engage in the selective abstractions that natural science can without being reduced too much to the physical,

overlooking subjective human factors


the logical conditions of the two are the same

Both kinds of inquiry are grounded in experience – the facts of an indeterminate situation

And the end point of each is the same: to gain a sense of determinacy by being able to make a “warranted assertion

any such resolution was understood by Dewey always to be provisional,

merely a resting place for inquiry

As he wrote: “conclusions of special inquiries are parts of an enterprise that is continually renewed,

”7 New indeterminacies arise,

solutions that worked before become unstuck,

and one is forced to begin inquiry again

Dewey’s philosophy was concept-led rather than concept-driven

Concept-driven philosophy suffered Dewey’s most stinging rebukes in The Reconstruction of Philosophy for being a species of philosophical analysis for analysis’s sake rather than seeing concepts as tools that could be usefully applied in thinking about human problems scientifically

According to Dewey,

the conceptual vocabulary of traditional philosophy needed to be re-worked with this in mind

There were many concepts that received reconstructive treatment of this kind by Dewey,

but three such concepts will be discussed here briefly as examples central to his work: experience,

Experience refers to both physical nature and the interaction of living things with their environment

Dewey’s naturalism rejected the dualistic separation of humans from their environment found in Cartesian epistemology

His understanding of experience as context


Humans acting and knowing in the world change the world,

and both biological and cultural forces condition human experience as well

While he did not equate experience with knowledge,

he argued that experience yields method,

since for both biological and emotional reasons we make use of experience,

noting its functional constancies and acting upon those constancies to refine the ways in which we draw from experience,

his was an instrumentalist view of experience that sought to control and direct experience where possible

“We use our past experiences to construct new and better ones in the future

The very fact of experience thus includes the process by which it directs itself in its own betterment

that process – inquiry arising from the problematic situations of human experience – is ameliorative

The concept of intelligence also has a central place in Dewey’s thought

Dewey sought to avoid the pitfalls he found in the concept of reason as it had been used in traditional philosophy and noted the contrast between the two,

writing that “intelligence is as practical as reason is theoretical

”9 Human intelligence starts with experience,

but is critical and future-oriented

It is not instrumental in the sense of being a means for “mechanically” producing a predetermined end


it is instrumental in another sense

It is an imaginative and creative “organ” that guides the “transformation of past into future,” and has import for “all the disciplines which have an intimate connection with human conduct: – to logic,

and the procedure of the sciences formal and natural

”10 When considering the value of any conclusion,

Dewey believed the method by which it is reached is all-important,

and argued that “the perfecting of method,

the perfecting of intelligence,

”11 Using the method of intelligence for the purpose of enriching human experience was ethically significant for Dewey

The process of perfecting or refining intelligence leads to “growth,” which he saw as the only moral end,12 and what counts as growth can only be determined in the process of inquiry


growth requires that individuals and social institutions take responsibility for improving the method of intelligence and critically examine its social use,

because he thought that intelligence was not innate,

nor could it be honed successfully in isolation

Dewey also believed that,

intelligence needed a “free and stable society,”13 and thus growth required a democratic culture

that cultivated “cooperative intelligence

Dewey wrote: “the effective socialization of intelligence is probably the greatest problem of democracy today

”15 Situation was another important concept for Dewey’s theory of inquiry,

integrating the human agent with the conditions of her environment or sphere of action

Context was everything for Dewey,

and he argued that traditional philosophy failed to understand its significance

metaphysical procedure worked independently of “the limits of a historic or developing situation

he believed that it was the quality of indeterminacy in connection with a situation that initiated inquiry

An indeterminate situation is one in which “its constituents do not hang together

”17 The sense of confusion engendered by a situation,

sparks action that seeks to alter that status quo

In Dewey’s words,

“The function of reflective thought is,

to transform a situation in which there is experienced obscurity,

into a situation that is clear,

”18 Action of this kind is framed within the way a situation is characterized as a problem,

and moves forward through hypothesis formation that proposes solutions and possible outcomes

Imagination is critical in projecting hypothetical outcomes,

but it is ultimately constrained by the conditions of the situation

Any solution must have a “functional fitness” to the problem at hand,19 and the success of an inquiry is determined by whether the plan of action suggested by a hypothesis and its execution,

makes coherent the conflict that was originally felt to be a problem

In the essays that follow,

more comment upon Dewey’s theory of inquiry,

and about growth and habit in Dewey’s thought will be provided as they pertain to the areas of research represented in the volume

The contributors also devote space to explaining Dewey’s naturalism,

and his instrumentalism or experimentalism

Controversies in connection with Dewey’s instrumentalism and scientism – for example,

whether scientific method can go as far in securing social well-being as Dewey suggests – are also discussed

The above are familiar themes that reappear,

linking Dewey’s thought on the numerous subjects that captured his interest

The intent of the volume is to capture those themes and reflect the


wide range of his intellectual interests

the reader will find in this volume chapters on the topics of metaphysics

and democratic political and international theory

The breadth of subject-matter displayed here,

due to the extensive reach of Dewey’s philosophy,

makes this particular Companion in the Cambridge series somewhat unusual


contributors to the volume have been asked where needed to provide brief accounts of the “state of the art” in the fields addressed here,

keeping readers who may be new to these subjects in mind

The argument one finds often repeated across the areas surveyed here – that Dewey has left an intellectual imprint worthy of our critical attention today – is quite humbling to us all who are aspiring or practicing academicians

The opening chapter by Robert Westbrook provides an intellectual biography of John Dewey,

addressing his early Hegelianism and then his turn to pragmatism,

and isolates democracy as the “intellectualized wish” that lends coherence to the diversity of his pursuits as both a scholar and an activist

The next four chapters examine Dewey’s instrumental logic of inquiry and naturalistic metaphysics

Ruth Anna Putnam introduces the reader to what Dewey believed to be the central problem of philosophy – in her words,

“how to preserve the authority of the values that guide our lives in an age that gives supreme cognitive authority to science” – and she explains that Dewey’s answer,

overcoming the separation between theory and practice,

was the aim of his theory of inquiry or instrumental theory of knowledge

Richard M

Gale’s chapter explains Dewey’s idea of nature as Lebenswelt

Gale provides an account of Dewey’s metaphysics of naturalism and the themes of experience as background,

which in his opinion retain a Hegelian will to unity despite Dewey’s appeal to the generic traits of existence

Gale looks at examples of Dewey’s naturalism applied to epistemology,

and religion to support his view that Dewey’s naturalism is of an anthropomorphic or humanistic kind

Isaac Levi discusses Dewey’s logic of inquiry

In particular,

Levi emphasizes the normative element in Dewey’s understanding of the ultimate subject of logic,

writing that what sets Dewey’s logic of inquiry apart from Peirce’s is that Dewey “held that in inquiry,

we seek to change situations – not states of

belief or points of view,” downplaying the value of truth in inquiry

This casual attitude to truth is not something Levi admires in Dewey,

but he believes that the great strength of Dewey’s model of inquiry is the way it generalizes the logic of scientific inquiry,

and finds that logic reflected in the realms of politics,

bridging the gap between these cultural practices and science

Tiles explores Dewey’s anti-epistemological epistemology and examines his experimental empiricism

Tiles explains the significance of the concept of habit for Dewey’s empiricism,

and his genetic account of the development of habitual responses through the process of inquiry,

and argues that Dewey’s particular brand of experimentalism is capable of delivering norms of science

Tiles argues that Dewey did so “in a way that totally abstracted from the use of mathematical forms in empirical inquiry” and with a view to demonstrating that “even forms of reasoning answer to experience

” The next set of chapters looks at Dewey’s theory of mind and action theory as they relate to cognitive science

Mark Johnson explains that Dewey’s naturalism,

defined by the principle of continuity,

produced a non-dualistic concept of the mind and Dewey’s felt need to coin the term “body–mind

” Johnson argues that almost fifty years before cognitive science was developed as a field,

Dewey constructed a broad philosophical framework for understanding the implications of contemporary cognitive science – in particular,

his insights about how the mind is both embodied and imaginative – even though cognitive science today would require us to update some of Dewey’s claims about how the mind works

Matthias Jung examines Dewey’s theory of action and speaks to its significance for cognitive science and social theory too

Jung writes that the concept of action has wide application across a range of disciplines,

but that despite the diversity of thought about action and its uses,

its conceptualization is largely shaped by either rational choice theory or normative theories of action

Dewey’s particular contribution to action theory,

is that Dewey offers a rather attractive alternative to the two: a concept of action that emphasizes the importance of situation,

and identifies habit and embodied creativity as universals in human action

The following two chapters look at Dewey’s moral theory

Jennifer Welchman explains that Dewey was an ethical naturalist who believed,

in contrast to non-cognitivists such as Hume (also an ethical


that values are responsive to reason and empirically verifiable


unlike many cognitive naturalists,

Dewey was not a moral realist,

since for Dewey a value judgment is a judgment about what course of action best fulfills a function

It is practical,

and practical moral judgments are especially complex because they involve making choices between different possible resolutions that reflect on the agent herself personally as well as impacting on the outcomes she wants to affect

Welchman describes Dewey’s problem with noncognitivism and the way he seeks to reconstruct ethical naturalism,

discussing his treatments of our moral psychology,

and what they mean for normative theory

James Bohman picks up from where Welchman leaves off,

exploring the social reform element of Dewey’s ameliorative naturalist ethics

Bohman writes that,

in contrast to social psychologists of his day,

Dewey’s moral and social psychology offered a vigorous defense of democracy and human rationality and sought to overcome the idea that social reform meant that: “either changing institutions requires first changing human sentiment,

or changing human nature requires first changing institutions

The Deweyan alternative incorporates elements of both horns

” Bohman examines Dewey’s moral theory in light of the debate over these two ideas of social reform continuing today,

and concludes that Dewey’s contextualist approach to moral and social psychology remains worthwhile,

as does his practical aim of improving moral judgments with a view to making them better suited to the social changes brought on by industrialization

The chapters by Sami Pihlström,

Richard Eldridge,

and Nel Noddings examine Dewey’s writings on religion,

Pihlström describes the socially grounded,

naturalist conception of religious faith that Dewey developed in his work A Common Faith,

and places his religious thought in the context of the metaphysics vs

antimetaphysics debate that permeates twentieth-century philosophy of religion

According to Pihlström,

Dewey’s contributions in this area are other instances of his general proclivity to reconstruct patterns of thought,

and dichotomous thinking in particular,

since he “attacks the traditionally sharp dualism between the spiritual and the secular or profane,” as well as mediates the divide between metaphysics and the critique of metaphysics


Pihlström acknowledges this problem: does Dewey’s naturalization of the religious qualities of experience

transform religious experience into something else

? Richard Eldridge explains that Dewey’s approach to the philosophy of art was motivated by his will to link art and its philosophy to wider human problems,

and in particular to reconnect meaning with human action in modern industrial society

Eldridge explores two themes that organize Dewey’s principal work in this area,

Art and Experience,

and discusses many of its topics,

concluding that despite Stanley Cavell’s criticism that Dewey tries to unite more than the modern world can allow,

Eldridge is still inclined to recommend Dewey’s vision of what philosophy,

and imagination should aim for: creating “better modalities of life

” Noddings offers an “appreciative critique” of Dewey’s philosophy of education,

examining it through the feminist lens of care theory

Noddings surveys five key topics in Dewey’s extensive work on education: the child,

In doing so,

Noddings argues that there is much overlap in the ways Dewey and care theorists conceive of the active nature of the child,

the importance of inquiry and critical thinking,

and the need to develop and improve democratic ideas,

but that Dewey falls short in failing to explicitly address the experience of women,

especially in relation to an expanded curriculum and their moral education

The last two chapters bring the volume back to where it began,

with Dewey’s democratic thought

Richard Bernstein aims to demonstrate how central democracy is to Dewey’s philosophy and how rich his thinking about democracy is,

working outside certain limitations in contemporary democratic theory associated with participatory,


Bernstein argues that there is not enough institutional analysis or sustained comment on the kind of economic reform or the integrative principle that his ideal of democracy required

My chapter examines Dewey’s engagement with international politics,

and his belief that Old World diplomacy should be replaced with a new international politics reconstructed along democratic lines

The chapter asks how Dewey understood the international situation in the early years of World War One,

and what he thought experimentalism in this arena required

As during the Great Depression,

Dewey saw in these decades of great international turbulence an opportunity to set a different “reset” button – one at the level of intersocietal interaction,

extending the reach of democracy there too


Dewey is criticized for not being able to deliver in any concrete or programmatic way on the social reform he envisioned

His method could not provide such answers,

Dewey’s advocacy in connection with the People’s Lobby to establish new social welfare programs during the Depression,

his work with Samuel Levinson in the campaign to outlaw war,

his critical roles in founding or giving vital support to the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools,

the New School for Social Research,

the Association of American University Professors,

and the American Civil Liberties Union all speak to the practical implications of Dewey’s significant philosophical output

The challenge that Dewey sets for us today is not one of sitting back with a view to being disconnected observers of our environs,

but actively engaging and critically examining the methods of intelligence we use and how we apply them to human problems

Therein lie no guarantees of happiness or growth,

this direction to human activity co-joined with a faith in our adaptive abilities is guidance enough

It remains to be seen where we take it

notes I would like to thank the following individuals who played vital roles in assisting me in the completion of this volume: Hilary Gaskin and Joanna Garbutt of Cambridge University Press

Edward Keene,

Robert Talisse,

Megan Clem,

Zach Hansen,

“Address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People” (1932),

LW 6:224

“Philosophy and Civilization” (1927),

LW 3:10

The word pragmatism is often linked with Barack Obama,

but for thoughts about Obama and the tradition of American philosophy called pragmatism,


“The Empiricist Strikes Back: Obama’s Pragmatism Explained,” The New Republic,

“The Pragmatist,” The Nation,



John Dewey: Religious Faith and Democratic Humanism (New York: Columbia University Press,


Meaning and Action: A Critical History of Pragmatism (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing,

Richard Rorty,


Relativism and Truth: Philosophical Papers,

I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

and “Comments on Sleeper and Edel,” Transactions of the C

Peirce Society 21 (1985),

Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938),

LW 12:16

Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920),

MW 12:134

The Quest for Certainty (1929),

LW 4:170

“The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy” (1917),

MW 10:45 and 47

The Quest for Certainty,

Reconstruction in Philosophy,

“Intelligence and Morals” (1902),

MW 4:31

Freedom and Culture (1939),

LW 13:187

See James Campbell’s development of this theme in Dewey in his Understanding Dewey: Nature and Cooperative Intelligence (Peru,

IL: Open Court Publishing,

Ethics (1932),

LW 7:365–6

Studies in Logical Theory (1903),

MW 2:304–5

How We Think (1933),

LW 8:195

The making of a democratic philosopher: the intellectual development of John Dewey

John Dewey’s way of thinking about thinking invites the intellectual historian

We are scholars eager to put thought in its contexts: not only contexts internal to the history of philosophy but social,

Dewey not only shared this impulse and wrote some provocative intellectual history himself,

but provided the enterprise with philosophical underpinnings

In the first instance,

the self was “an agent-patient,

” Thinking emerged out of non-cognitive,

“primary experience” and was in the service of controlling and enriching such experience

“To be a man,” Dewey argued,

” In one of his most often-quoted remarks,

he warned his fellow philosophers that they were losing sight of their cultural embodiment and that they were on the path to terminal marginality unless philosophy “ceases to be a device for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a method,

for dealing with the problems of men

”2 Positions such as these not only underwrite intellectual history

They also inevitably provoke the interest of intellectual historians in Dewey’s own desires,

and his own engagement with the problems of those outside the narrow circle of professional philosophers

They alert the antennae of intellectual biographers

ninety years Born in Burlington,


Dewey graduated from the University of Vermont in 1879

After a brief stint as a 13

schoolteacher in western Pennsylvania and Vermont,

he enrolled as a graduate student in the department of philosophy at Johns Hopkins University

There he came under the influence of George S


Receiving his Ph

in 1884 with a dissertation on Kant,

Dewey followed Morris to the University of Michigan,

and assumed the leadership of the philosophy department there following Morris’s untimely death in 1889

His contribution to this project was a bold,

unconvincing merger of idealist metaphysics and recent developments in experimental psychology

In 1894 Dewey left Michigan for the newly founded University of Chicago

There during the 1890s he moved steadily away from absolute idealism toward a new philosophy that William James would in 1898 dub pragmatism

At Chicago,

Dewey also began to devote himself to pedagogy and school reform – interests that had emerged during his Michigan years

Believing that the classroom was an ideal setting in which to test the new psychology and philosophy that he was formulating,

he persuaded the university to establish a Laboratory School in 1896 for this purpose

In its curriculum,

as well as in such widely read books as The School and Society (1899),

The Child and the Curriculum (1902),

and later Democracy and Education (1916),

Dewey criticized both traditionalist advocates of a “studies-centered” curriculum and reformers given to romantic “child-centered” pedagogy

Dewey called upon educators to build upon the impulses that children brought with them to school,

but he attacked those who would merely give these impulses free rein

Rather than leave children to their own devices as romantics recommended,

or impose subject-matter on them as traditionalists advised,

Dewey proposed constructing an environment in which the child,

would be confronted with problems solvable only with the aid of the knowledge and skills supplied by traditional subjects

Dewey resigned from the faculty at Chicago in 1904 following a bitter dispute with university president William Rainey Harper over the role of Dewey’s wife,

in the administration of the Laboratory School

He was quickly hired by the philosophy

The making of a democratic philosopher

department at Columbia University,

where he taught for the remainder of his career

Much of Dewey’s work in the first two decades of the twentieth century centered on a complicated three-way epistemological debate between idealists,

Dewey attacked both idealism and realism as species of “intellectualism” which,

by regarding man in the first instance as a spectatorial “knower” detached from the rest of nature,

created all sorts of insoluble problems and insurmountable dualisms of mind and world

These difficulties could be overcome,

by recognizing that knowing was a second-order,

mediating activity that occurred at problematic moments within a larger,

more immediate realm of non-cognitive experience and truth was the predicate of judgments that resolved such problems

He contended that this was the way both ordinary men and women and modern scientists thought about knowledge and truth,

and philosophers would do well to follow their example

Dewey’s own most significant venture into the problems of men in these years was an unhappy one

He threw his support behind American intervention in World War I,

hoping against an abundance of evidence to the contrary that the war could help make the world safe for a democracy even more thoroughgoing than that envisioned by Woodrow Wilson

“Industrial democracy is on the way,” Dewey told a New York World reporter in July 1917

“The rule of the Workmen and the Soldiers will not be confined to Russia

and this means that the domination of all upper classes,

even of what we have been knowing as ‘respectable society,’ is at an end

” Dewey’s shortsightedness occasioned an acute polemic by his former student Randolph Bourne,

who charged him with a failure of pragmatic intelligence only slightly less disastrous than the belligerent enthusiasm of younger progressives who had made of “pragmatism” little more than the exercise of technical reason on behalf of the demiurge of war

at an age at which he might well have contemplated retirement,

Dewey embarked on three more decades of intense labor as a philosopher and activist

In a series of public lectures and magisterial volumes – Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920),

Experience and Nature (1925),

The Quest for Certainty (1929),

Art as Experience (1934),

A Common Faith (1934),

and Logic: the Theory of Inquiry (1938) – he reiterated his criticism of the “spectatorial”

theory of knowledge and truth and elaborated his pragmatic alternative

But he also,

offered his view of the noncognitive realm of experience and of the “consummatory experience” of art,

and everyday activity which made life worth living

Dewey spent most of the years 1919–21 in China,

where he was lionized by Chinese liberals who were struggling unsuccessfully amidst revolutionary turmoil to democratize their culture and society

Upon his return to the United States,

he devoted much of his energy to playing a leading role in the Outlawry of War movement

In advancing outlawry arguments,

Dewey began to articulate a view of war as an uncontrollable and counterproductive means of democratic social action,

a view very close to the one Bourne had pressed on him during World War I

He also found himself at odds with former progressive comrades such as Walter Lippmann,

who in the war’s wake were recommending greater realism about democracy’s possibilities

Dewey offered a forceful ethical defense of expansive democratic ideals in The Public and its Problems (1927),

albeit one that did little to deter the effects among liberal intellectuals of the withering skepticism that Lippmann and others had generated about practical hopes for anything more than a profoundly constricted democratic politics

With the collapse of American capitalism in 1929,

Dewey began to articulate his own peculiar version of democratic socialism in such books as Individualism Old and New (1930),

Liberalism and Social Action (1935),

and Freedom and Culture (1939)

He assumed a leading role among critics of the New Deal and as a spokesman for radical third-party politics

At the same time,

he voiced vigorous opposition throughout the 1930s and 1940s to the terrors of the Soviet regime and to the antidemocratic politics of the American Communist Party

Following his death in 1952,

Dewey’s stock among American philosophers fell rapidly with the ascendancy of analytical philosophers who regarded him,

as “a nice old man who hadn’t the vaguest conception of real philosophical rigor or the nature of a real philosophical problem

”5 He fared no better among educators,

many of whom blamed him for the woes wrought by progressive “Deweyan” reforms that he in fact opposed,

or among leading political theorists given to continued hard-boiled realism about the limits of democratic horizons

The making of a democratic philosopher

But the latter years of the twentieth century witnessed a considerable revival of interest in Dewey’s thinking,

and fostered a host of “neopragmatisms” indebted to it,

most notably that of Richard Rorty,

one of the most prominent (and certainly the most famous) of American philosophers of the last quarter-century

Rorty acclaimed Dewey as one of the three most important philosophers of the century (along with Wittgenstein and Heidegger),

and he and other neopragmatists have once again put pragmatism,

and Deweyan pragmatism in particular,

on the American intellectual map as a forceful and independent presence – not only among philosophers but across disciplinary lines and in the wider culture

might we lend some coherence to this extraordinarily diverse and rich career and the enormous body of work it generated